A new age: How robots enhance patient care at Essentia Health

November 03, 2022  By: Anthony Matt

ROSA Robot

For years, robotic surgical equipment, powered by artificial intelligence programmed with potentially millions of data points and complex algorithms, has been making its way into health care. Essentia is proud to boast several platforms that fit this mold and make patient care safer and more efficient. They also lead to shorter hospital stays, less recovery time and — most importantly — overall better patient outcomes.

From joint replacements to gallbladder surgery and appendectomies, if you have surgery at Essentia, there’s a good chance artificial intelligence will be involved. While it may make some people shudder to think of a robot performing surgery on them, it’s important to note that in almost all cases these are aides for surgeons who program and guide them based on a patient’s individual needs and anatomy. They may be powered by AI, but surgeons are responsible for nearly all their movements. Because of things like pre-op planning and 3D imaging, surgeons are equipped with a more detailed plan.

What does this mean for the patient? It means more precision, less invasive procedures and a reduced chance of error.

Most robotic surgical systems feature a camera and mechanical arms with surgical instruments attached to them. The surgeon is able to control the arms from a console, which gives them a high-definition, magnified, 3D view of the process as it unfolds. This enhances flexibility and precision when compared to more traditional techniques.

Essentia has a variety of robots for several needs. Here’s a brief summary of some of the tools we use to enhance patient care.

Da Vinci Xi Surgical System

DaVinciBuilt on 20 years of experience, the Xi is da Vinci’s fourth-generation machine. Equipped with four movable arms, it operates as an extension of a surgeon’s eyes and hands, allowing unobstructed access to the patient. Using a laser system, the robot is able to configure itself precisely, ensuring optimal surgery positions based on patients’ needs. The surgeon then operates the machine with fine-tuned mechanics through an overhead console that allows for up-close access to every step of the procedure.

Machines like the Xi can assist with hernia repair, colon resections, gynecological procedures and many other general surgeries. This is available at Essentia hospitals in Duluth, Virginia, Fargo and Brainerd.

Zimmer Biomet’s new ROSA (robotic surgical assistant) Knee System

This procedure is similar to traditional total knee replacement, but with a robotic assistant. The ROSA Knee System uses data collected before and during surgery to inform the surgeon(s) about details related to the patient’s unique anatomy that may affect the implant fit. By using real-time data, the surgeon can plan for and carry out a customized surgery.

ROSA“This personalized approach to knee replacement provides a customized care plan to ensure the best possible outcome based on each patient’s unique anatomy,” said Dr. Christopher Metz, an Essentia orthopedic surgeon. “This new technology is more accurate and makes an already successful surgery that much better.”

Prior to the surgery, patients will have a series of X-rays, which are used to create a 3D model of their knee. During the surgery, the system uses a camera and trackers to provide the surgeon with data about the patient’s knee. All this information about the patient’s anatomy, combined with the surgeon’s expertise, helps them know how to precisely position the implant.

The ROSA Knee System does not make movements unless prompted by the surgeon. The surgeon has been specifically trained to use the system and remains in control of making all the decisions based on data provided.

MAKO robot

The MAKO robotic arm combines digital planning, computer technology and surgical techniques for more accurate and less invasive hip and knee replacements. A patient-specific virtual 3D model/plan is created using CT images from the patient. The surgeon confirms the plan and makes any necessary adjustments while guiding the robotic arm. It helps create one of the more predictable experiences for these types of surgeries.

Auris Health’s Monarch™ Platform

MonarchThis is an innovative technology for the diagnosis of lung cancer. It enables earlier diagnosis and facilitates the biopsy of small and hard-to-reach nodules in the periphery of the lung. The technology integrates the latest advancements in robotics, software, data science and endoscopy — or the use of small cameras and tools to enter the body through its natural openings. There are a variety of diagnostic options currently available for lung cancer, but all have limitations in accuracy, safety or invasiveness. These drawbacks can lead to false positives, false negatives or troubling side effects.  

The Monarch Platform features a controller-like interface that physicians use to navigate the flexible robotic endoscope to the periphery of the lung with improved reach, vision and control. Combining traditional endoscopic views into the lung with computer-assisted navigation based on 3D models of the patient’s own lung anatomy, the Monarch Platform provides physicians with continuous vision of the airways throughout the entire procedure.  

Why is this important for patients? Those who have small, peripheral nodules can be diagnosed earlier, allowing for more successful treatment of their lung cancer, which historically was found at a late stage with few options available. 

“This platform has been a game changer compared to legacy technology,” said Dr. Eric Swanson, a pulmonary medicine doctor at Essentia. “Since starting to use this technology over a year ago we have biopsied many lesions we never would have tried before given the platform’s ability to reach further and accurately adjust the scope towards lesions, which facilitated definitive diagnoses and staged patients all in a single procedure.”

GI Genius

Gi GeniusIn 2022, Essentia became the first hospital in the Northland to use this computer-aided polyp-detection system.

This new technology greatly enhances the ability to detect potentially cancerous colorectal polyps, or adenomas, through enhanced visualization during a colonoscopy.

The GI Genius uses AI to help detect precancerous lesions in real-time. It incorporates advanced algorithms that can identify and mark abnormalities consistent with polyps, including flat ones, that might otherwise go undetected by the human eye. Studies have shown every 1% increase in adenoma-detection rate reduces the risk of interval colorectal cancer by 3%. The GI Genius has been shown to increase adenoma-detection rate by over 14% compared to colonoscopy alone.

“This new technology helps to increase the quality of our colonoscopies, which in turn improves the diagnosis and outcomes for colon cancer patients,” said Dr. Erin Thackeray, a gastroenterologist at Essentia Health.

The system is trained with a dataset of 13 million polyp images of various shapes and sizes. It is 82% faster than the average endoscopist at detecting polyps, with an overall sensitivity rate of 99.7%, meaning there is less than a half-percent chance for a false positive.

Mazor X spinal surgery system

With the Mazor X, neurosurgeons can minimize spine-surgery recovery while maximizing results.

Mazor“Robotic surgery is making a difference in the delivery of direct patient care,” said Dr. Dino Terzic, an Essentia neurosurgeon. “Adopting these technologies now will make it easier to keep up with the trend in the future, as more significant breakthroughs are likely in our lifetimes.”

The Mazor X consists of three pieces that work together to help surgeons perform a precise, effective spine surgery:

  • 3D surgery planning: Advanced computer tools use 3D images to help physicians create a detailed surgery plan, which leads to increased precision.
  • Intra-operative guidance: Robotics technology guides the surgical tools and implants according to the plan.
  • Verification tools: During a surgical procedure, innovative tracking and imaging technology adds an extra measure of safety to ensure all the movements and positioning follow the surgical plan.

This technology is used to treat degenerative disk diseases, scoliosis, herniated disks, stenosis, vertebral fractures and more.

These are just a few state-of-the-art pieces of technology Essentia implements at a variety of our locations. To learn if one of these options is right for you, talk to your primary care physician.


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